The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth About Developing Software Today – Part III
This is the third installment of a series on the current landscape of software development. Within the series, Intertech owner, Tom Salonek, talks about the good, the bad and the really ugly of this rapidly changing field including where the challenges, and opportunities for improvement, lie. Missed the earlier installments? Find them here and here.
Software Development: The Right Team Makes all the Difference
With technology continually providing new and faster ways to do almost everything, the human factor can be easy to discount. That’s a mistake, particularly when it comes to software development. Whether you’re looking to hire new IT professionals for your in-house team or engaging an outside firm, taking the time to choose the right people can make a critical difference to your project outcome. Great people can help you catapult across the finish with a superior product. Mediocre people frequently limp in late (and frequently over budget) with a mediocre solution that needs replacing in a short time. Frankly put, choosing the right partners sometimes can be the difference between a solid outcome and no outcome at all.
Why Is The Human Factor So Important?
I explain it this way: great software development requires a combination of logical intellectual work and creativity. People who are highly skilled and experienced, but who also possess a passion for creative problem solving, can achieve results that less experienced or unmotivated professionals cannot.
It’s tempting to hire or engage the cheapest employee or firm but remember that software development is a much more sophisticated enterprise than cranking out bars of steel in a factory. The difference between the top tier and bottom tier is a factor, not a mere percentage. In other words, “you get what you pay for” is especially true in the world of software!
If you’re looking to hire individuals to join or partner with your team, make sure serious candidates can understand business needs and problems and propose/implement effective solutions. Ask candidates about a time they solved a problem out of curiosity, versus the need to do so for a business reason. Professionals with inherent curiosity are much more likely to keep learning in ways that can pay big dividends on the job.
Do Your Homework
What should you do if you’re looking to engage a software development partner? As with most things that matter, begin by doing your homework. Dig in and ask tough questions. I suggest asking the following questions to kick off your search:
- How long has your firm been in business? Obviously, you want a firm with a proven track record and an authentic list of satisfied repeat customers.
- How large is your firm? If you’re a small or mid-sized company, be careful not to get lost in the shuffle at a big consulting firm where your business may be considered “small potatoes” compared to bigger corporate clients.
- How will you partner with us? Again, proven experience is key to ensuring your chosen consultants will work shoulder to shoulder with your team, solving problems and transferring knowledge daily. The consulting firm should leave your team more technically robust than when the engagement began.
- How do you ensure the technical expertise of your consultants? You should also ask how the consulting firm leverages collective knowledge for the benefit of all its customers.
Work to find people who bring a fresh perspective (versus a narrow focus influenced by a legacy process, ideas or culture). People with deep experience across multiple industries and technologies are more likely to approach challenges with new ideas and creative approaches that are not obvious to the “it’s always been done this way” crowd. They also tend to be more versatile, with the ability to perform in multiple roles as circumstances require.
Looking Beyond the Technical
While software development demands stellar technical skills, strong verbal and written communication skills also are key. People with the ability to talk with other technical professionals and business stakeholders are much more likely to complete projects that meet or exceed expectations.
And while it might sound quaint to some, I believe professionals who come equipped with above average integrity best serve organizations. A strong moral compass includes a genuine concern for an employer’s or client’s best interests. People who care bring drive and determination to solving problems by finding the best solutions, even if that means working longer hours from time to time. They also treat fellow team members with respect, which increases the odds of successful collaboration over the long term.
Your search for the best and brightest can be challenging, especially now with more demand for IT professionals than people to fill those positions. Sometimes engaging less experienced talent can help, but a careful approach must be taken to ensure success. Check back soon…that’s the topic of my next post!
About Tom Salonek
Tom Salonek is the founder and CEO of Intertech. Founded in 1991, Intertech is the largest combined software development consulting and training firm in Minnesota, designing and developing software solutions that power Fortune 500 businesses, mid-sized companies and state government. Tom is also the author of the book, “The 100 Building Blocks for Business Leadership”, which outlines 100 successful management practices that are used at Intertech as well as learned at Salonek’s executive education study at Harvard School of Business and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.